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Ford urges food donations, but many warming centres say they don’t need it

Ayesha Barakzai, 12, her sister Khadijah, 13, and their father sit with Lawrence Heights Middle School principal David Labelle while they enjoy a pancake breakfast put on by the Toronto District School Board' at the school in North York, Ontario on Wednesday December 25, 2013.

Jon Blacker/The Globe and Mail

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford issued a plea for the public to help feed residents sheltering at warming centres, but staff at several of them said they had more than enough for them to eat and encouraged donations to the food bank instead.

At the briefing Wednesday morning on the cleanup after this week's ice storm, Mr. Ford said that a high of 1,000 people had taken refuge at the warming centres the night before. In spite of a warming forecast, he said the next night could be even busier.

"We are asking for food, there is a shortage," he told reporters, flanked by leaders of the city agencies dealing with the cleanup. "If we could get people to donate non-perishable foods … [that] would be great."

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He called for the food to be dropped off at a dozen warming centres scattered around the city or at police divisions 11, 12, 14, 22, 23, 31, 33, 42, 43, 51 and 52. But people on duty at a number of the warming centres, which have been providing food, shelter and showers in schools and community centres, said that their needs varied greatly.

At Pleasantview Community Centre in east Toronto, the warming centre was running low on food as the dinner hour approached Wednesday, a worker said. With about 140 people staying there, some away from their homes since Sunday, donations of pizza and other food from local businesses and residents were falling short.

"Any donation [of food] would be greatly appreciated because we have people that are displaced for the last three or four days," the worker said. "Whatever we can get, we would be more than happy."

But not all warming centres were in need of more food. At Matty Eckler Community Centre, just east of downtown, a worker said food supplies were adequate.

And warming centre staff at some other locations said that they had plenty to offer even before Mr. Ford's appeal.

"We have too much," said a woman at Driftwood Community Centre in the city's northwest.

At Agincourt Recreation Centre in Scarborough, where Premier Kathleen Wynne toured Wednesday afternoon, staff said they needed only water, not food. And at Joseph Piccininni Community Centre, on St. Clair west, a staffer said, "We don't need it. We didn't need him to appeal."

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Staff members at some other warming centres were too busy to talk or directed reporters to the city's media line, queries to which were not immediately answered.

Earlier Wednesday, Janie Romoff, director of recreation for City of Toronto (in charge of reception and warming centres), told CP24 the recreation and warming centres haven't been running out of food.

"It's a better-safe-than-sorry approach. We have food that's being delivered to the 13 recreation and warming centres that we have across the city. We have food for the amount of people we're expecting."

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Oliver Moore joined the Globe and Mail's web newsroom in 2000 as an editor and then moved into reporting. A native Torontonian, he served four years as Atlantic Bureau Chief and has worked also in Afghanistan, Grenada, France, Spain and the United States. More

National news reporter

Renata joined The Globe and Mail's Toronto newsroom in March of 2011. Raised in the Greater Toronto Area, Renata spent nine years reporting in Alberta for the Calgary Herald and the Edmonton Journal, covering crime, environment and political affairs. More

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